In the last few weeks, I’ve written a few blog posts about preparing for that all important job interview. However, there is one question that many people fear, and that is the weaknesses question. Who likes acknowledging what they’re not good at, their flaws, imperfections and weaknesses? In trying to answer it, you risk putting yourself in a very vulnerable position, and very few people are comfortable doing that. However, when you look at the question from the interviewers point of view, and understand the objective of the question, then it won’t seem so daunting.
Why do interviewers ask the weaknesses question?
Nobody’s perfect. We all have strengths and weakness. Things we are naturally good at, and things that we aren’t good at, but learn how to manage. For the person asking the question, they want you to demonstrate that:
- you understand that you do have weaknesses. Self-awareness is key.
- you know how to manage those weaknesses. Be prepared to provide an example of how you have worked to improve a weakness.
- you get that sometimes weaknesses can be an asset, and in certain circumstances strengths can be weaknesses. In either case, it’s about being self aware and managing the skill or behaviour.
How to identify your weaknesses
If you’ve taken the Keirsey test or Myers-Briggs test, then you can use your personality type to help you identify the weaknesses associated with that personality type to get a feel for what you could use as weaknesses in an interview situation, and then reflect on how you many have managed or overcome the weakness is a specific scenario.
For example, the 16personalities website identifies the weaknesses of the INFJ personality type as:
- extremely private
- need to have a cause
- burn out easily
At interview, I could use any one of these as a starting point to answering the question. For example, being very private, I respect the privacy of others, and can keep information obtained in a business capacity confidential.
Examples of weaknesses that can be strengths
There are many different weaknesses, but here are a few that can be re-framed so that they become strengths. For example:
- Being stubborn -> being persistent
- Being cautious -> being prudent
- Being sensitive -> being intuitive
Think of your weaknesses and how you could potentially re-frame them as strengths.
Examples of strengths that can be seen as weaknesses
In the same way that weaknesses can be strengths, so can strengths be perceived as weaknesses. Some common strengths used in interview are shown below, along with how they can be seen as weaknesses:
- Being a perfectionist – People who strive to perfection are almost always going to fail, because very few things are perfect. As a result their self-confidence takes a knock. Some people then start to procrastinate around tasks where they feel they’re going to miss some impossible ideal.
- Working hard – People who are prepared to work long hours risk burning out unless they have strategies in place to prevent this. If you use this, then be prepared to demonstrate a proper work/life balance.
- Being passionate – I suffered from this one myself, and found that it’s ok to be passionate about something, however, it can be really annoying to other people who don’t share that passion.
How to answer the weaknesses question at interview?
To be able to answer any question well at interview requires some preparation and practice. The same applies to the weaknesses question. So where to begin?
- First, review the job description and identify what qualifications, skills and experience are required of the job.
- Next identify where you meet, exceed or don’t meet their requirements.
- Look at the specific behaviours and standards that are expected. Are there any areas where your weaknesses would need to be managed, and if so, how have you done this before, or how could you do this in the future?
- Also look at your strengths, and think about how they could become a weakness in a different context or situation.
Mistakes made at interview
- Being too honest. For example, admitting that you’re not a morning person, when the job requires early starts would not leave the interviewer with a positive impression, unless you can demonstrate the steps that you have taken to overcome this, for example, you go to bed earlier and set your alarm clock early to allow you to wake up slowly.
- Not admitting to having any weaknesses. We all have them. What the interviewer is looking for is that your acknowledge them and that you manage them.
- Using strengths as weaknesses. It’s an old tactic, and employers see through it. Call a spade a spade, and be honest about what your weaknesses are, but remember to re-frame them. For example, start by saying that you can be stubborn, then talk about how being persistent (the positive) has helped achieve a specific goal, but that you recognise when being stubborn because of ego could have a negative impact.
Answering the weaknesses question at interview is sometimes seen as quite difficult, as it can leave you vulnerable, however, with a bit of preparation and practice, you can nail it.
I hope that you found this post useful. If you did, then please share. If you would like some help moving your career onto the next level, then please get in touch.